THE CHICAGO Bears insisted all along that quarterback Jay Cutler would get his job back once he was ready, no matter how well Josh McCown was playing.
Yesterday, they stuck to their word.
Coach Marc Trestman said Cutler will start Sunday at Cleveland after missing four games because of a high left ankle sprain. McCown goes back to a reserve role after excelling.
"I don't think that risk was part of this decision," Trestman said. "This decision was made a long time ago. That was that when Jay was ready to play, that he would play. That's how we planned to do it, so I don't look at it like that. I look at it, Jay's our quarterback, and when he was ready to play, he was going to play, and that's the same words I used a month ago and there's no change today."
Cutler worked with the receivers following Wednesday's walkthrough. Trestman said there was no swelling or any "residual issues" from that, and he was a full participant in yesterday's practice.
He also said Cutler is "100 percent or certainly close to it if not."
The news on linebacker Lance Briggs wasn't quite as promising. He participated on a limited basis and Trestman wasn't optimistic about him returning this week, meaning he could miss his seventh straight game because of a broken shoulder.
Cutler's return comes on the heels of a blowout win over Dallas on Monday night that vaulted the Bears back into the NFC North race after back-to-back losses at St. Louis and Minnesota. They're tied with Detroit at 7-6, but the Lions beat them twice.
If nothing else, the Bears know they can count on McCown if they need him again. Considering he was coaching high school football in North Carolina when they first signed him during the 2011 season, that's not bad.
* Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' checklist for playing Sunday at Dallas has two primary items on it: taking the majority of first-team snaps in practice today, and getting good results from a scan on his healing left collarbone.
If both those things happen, Rodgers could be back under center for the first time since breaking his collarbone Nov. 4 against Chicago.
Asked after yesterday's practice if he is holding out hope of playing Sunday, Rodgers paused before replying, "Yes."
He says he'll need to get most of the work in today's practice after sharing snaps with backup Matt Flynn for the past 2 days, and the team will likely want team physician Patrick McKenzie to examine him. Rodgers' last CT scan was done on Dec. 3 and did not show sufficient healing in the bone to get him cleared to play.
As of yesterday afternoon, Rodgers said he had not been scanned. He also would not say whether a scan has been scheduled. Asked if he would be scanned before the week is out, Rodgers replied, "I'm not sure about that."
Rodgers indicated that the team would make a decision on his status today, in fairness to Flynn.
* The Jacksonville Jaguars could be without two of their most productive offensive weapons for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. Rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew has an injured hamstring and receptions leader Cecil Shorts has an injured groin. Both missed a second straight day of practice due to their injuries.
* Tavon Austin (left ankle) sat out his second straight practice yesterday, and his availability for the St. Louis Rams' game on Sunday is in question.
* Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, recovering from a concussion, has his sights set on playing Sunday, but he's still going through the NFL's protocol on head injuries. Cromartie was limited at practice yesterday while wearing a red no-contact jersey after sitting out Wednesday.
"I feel good, I feel fine," Cromartie said. "But you never know how the mind works."
* Arizona Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu will have surgery today to repair torn ligaments in his left knee. Mathieu, speaking informally to a small group of reporters at team headquarters, said he knows it will be difficult to watch the team play for the remainder of the season. Mathieu tore his ACL and LCS when he was hit while returning a free kick following a safety in the Cardinals' 30-10 victory over St. Louis last Sunday. He jogged toward the sideline, then his knee buckled and he collapsed on the field.
* Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said he wasn't consulted on coach Mike Shanahan's decision to sit Robert Griffin III, adding that he finds it "a little disappointing" that the franchise quarterback won't be playing for the rest of the season.
"If it was about really football, I think you would talk to the offensive coordinator," Kyle Shanahan said. "But the decision doesn't have to do with football, it has to do with the future of an organization. That's out of my realm."
Kyle Shanahan said he made out two game plans this week for Atlanta while waiting for Mike Shanahan to announce that Kirk Cousins will start the final 3 weeks. Mike Shanahan, after consulting with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen, said he decided to shut down Griffin because of the pounding the quarterback has taken in recent weeks and that it's better for the franchise to have Griffin healthy for the offseason rather than get injured.